Gideon the Ninth
by Tamsyn Muir
The Emperor needs necromancers.
The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.
Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.
Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Of course, some things are better left dead.
This is quite possibly the most bonkers novel I have ever read—and I loved it.
Gideon the Ninth is a Marmite book, and so many things depend on whether or not you’re going to enjoy it. If you don’t like Gideon’s sense of humour then this novel won’t work for you and, perhaps most importantly, if you’re not content to accept the fact that you’re never 100% sure what’s going on, you won’t have a good time with it. This novel is bizarre, and you have to really embrace that to enjoy it.
I’d seen so many reviews either singing Gideon the Ninth‘s praises or criticising it for being too confusing that I had no idea what I was going to think of it, and I’m so pleased to say I adored it.
If you’re thinking of giving this novel a try then I highly recommend getting your hands on the audiobook if you can. The narrator, Moira Quirk, is fantastic, and I think reading along to the audiobook from time to time really helped me get what the novel was talking about when it ventured into completely unfamiliar territory. Tamsyn Muir is not here to coddle her readers—you’re going to be dropped into this story headfirst, and all you can do is hold on for the ride.
Gideon Nav has lived with the Ninth House for as long as she can remember, surrounded by nuns and skeletons and her nemesis, Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the Reverand Daughter of the Ninth House who just so happens to be a necromancer. This is a universe of necromancers, however, and when Harrowhark is given the opportunity to become a Lyctor, essentially a necromancer who works for the emperor and cannot die, Gideon is forced to travel with her to the First House to act as her cavalier (really, a bodyguard) and help her beat the trials that await them both there.
What ensues is a science fantasy with a Goth aesthetic that slowly turns into a murder mystery. Sound weird? Good! It is—and yet it’s so brilliant.
While the world and magic systems are a little confusing, it’s the characters that make this book and Gideon is such a fantastic protagonist to follow. She’s funny – I laughed out loud so many times reading this book – and at her core she’s a huge sweetheart, she just doesn’t want anyone else to know that. Harrow is a brilliant character, too, and the dynamic between her and Gideon is perfection. This is enemies to allies (and maybe more than that) done well, which is so refreshing when so many stories these days claim to be enemies to allies/lovers and yet either aren’t that at all or aren’t done very well.
A necromancer and cavalier from the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Houses arrive at the First House too, and each one was so well written. Initially I was a little worried I’d lose track of who everyone was, but Muir excels at writing a huge cast of characters. In fact her writing full stop is excellent, and I will happily devour anything else she writes. I can’t wait to get my hands on Harrow the Ninth—especially after that ending!
I urge you to give this weird, whacky, wonderful novel a try.